Paradise Valley Circuit
Quite simply, this is a top hike. On the Paradise Valley Circuit trail, experience spectacular clear lakes and waterfalls, beautiful views, a challenging scree ascent and a breathtaking descent. Once at Sentinel Pass get the stunning views of the Valley of the 10 Peaks and Moraine Lake.
From Lake Louise Village, take the Lake Louise Drive and turn off onto Moraine Lake Road. Park after 2.4km km in the Paradise Creek Parking lot. You’ll need to plan a shuttle to get back to your car from Moraine Lake. Note that changes to vehicle access in 2018 may impact ability to park at trailhead. If road is closed, request access to attendants on-site or take a shuttle.
|When to do|
June through October
This trail, a combination of the Sentinel Pass and Paradise Valley hike, brings all the best elements of the Valley of the Ten Peaks and Paradise Valley into one incredible route. Ideally, the hike is done as a shuttle, with a car in both the Moraine Lake parking lot and the Paradise Creek parking lot (approximately 2.4km from the turn-off from Lake Louise Drive onto Moraine Lake Road). It is also possible to hike from Moraine Lake down to Paradise Creek or to find a bus or another vacationer who can drive you back to your car.
We prefer to start in Paradise Valley and hike to Moraine Lake, thus it’s recommended to begin in the Paradise Creek parking lot. This lot can fill up by 9am in summer, so get here early. Additionally, there are often hiking restrictions due to bears and a requirement that you hike in groups of at least four in Paradise Valley and the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Therefore, it’s ideal to link up with others that are aligned with your hiking preferences and experience.
Leave the parking lot by the well-defined path heading south. This is a well-trodden trail through a fragrant, green forest with glimpses ahead of the beautiful mountains that are awaiting you – the perfect way to begin the Paradise Valley circuit. After 5.7km and 230m of elevation gain, you will come to the top of a crest with views of Lake Annette and Mount Temple emerging from the beautiful waters below. We’ve yet to see a photo that has done this view justice, so take a break and enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime scenery.
Once leaving Lake Annette, continue through the forest, crossing and re-crossing the river – each time with more spectacular views of the head of Paradise Valley and surrounding mountains. At 9.3km, head right and downhill towards Giant Steps, reaching these marvels at 10.0km. This is a great point to stop and have lunch – savoring the views that lay in front of you.
Retrace your steps to the Sentinel Pass Junction and head left towards Sentinel Pass. You will cross open terrain as views unfold, eventually reaching a boulder field. Skirt this to the left and head back into the trees for a short while, eventually emerging as you see a desolate rocky route up to Sentinel Pass. This high valley can keep snow later than many other places, so take care to ensure the terrain is passable. In addition, with an abundance of rock falls, this is a dangerous place to rest. Be aware of your surroundings, spread out from your other hikers and put on your helmet.
Once you leave this section, you are heading up the valley towards Sentinel Pass. The trail is initially clear, but breaks down as you move higher into the valley. As this happens, look for rock cairns to guide your way. The trail hugs the left-hand side of the valley until you reach the base of the final ascent, at which point the route shifts up towards the pass in a series of faint switchbacks. While it is hard to see the trail as you ascend, the route is clear when looking back. If you find yourself off the trail, scan for rock cairns or look down to try to locate the trail again to see where it leads. You can get to the pass without the trail, however it is much more difficult and adds additional danger.
Be very careful not to stray too far to the left or right ascending the final slope to the pass. While the trail is faint, it is fairly stable. Outside of the marked route, both the scree areas and the large boulder areas are remarkably unsteady. There is danger in dislodging rocks and boulders, not only for those below, but also potentially to yourself by making the slope unstable. Take care and travel lightly. Yell “Rocks” loudly if you do cause rockfall.
Finally, upon reaching Sentinel Pass at 14.4km, a stunning view of the Valley of Ten Peaks opens up for you. Savor a break here, feeling free to explore the surrounding area – while still being aware of rock fall and ledges. We prefer to head down to the Minestimma Lakes, which usually is out of the wind. The views here are spectacular, and the reflections off of the water are delightful, making exceptional photos.
Follow the path down, through the larches, which can present magnificent autumn colors. The path is clear all the way back down to Moraine Lake. After a long day, you are likely going to arrive at the lake at a rare quiet moment. Enjoy the tranquility.
If you opted for the shuttle, you can simply drive back to Paradise Creek parking lot from the lake. If you didn’t prepare for this, look for a friendly tourist to shuttle you down to your car or walk along the 8.2km Paradise to Moraine Highline Trail.
At times during the year, the hike requires groups of a minimum of 4-6 people. Plan accordingly. It is also possible to find other smaller groups at the trailhead to merge together.
You can try and take public transportation or park a second car at Moraine Lake and driving back to your car at Paradise Creek. Confirm the public shuttle can drop you off at Paradise Creek in advance. If you drive ,you’ll need to park at Moraine Lake around 6am to get a spot.
You can also take public transportation back from moraine Lake to Lake Louise. The driver should be willing to drop you off at Paradise Creek parking lot if you tell them when you get on. You’ll need to buy your ticket in Lake Louise beforehand.
Finish the day off with a drink at the Moraine Lake Lodge – you earned it.
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